Calm after the storm….

So … A few months back now I had a moment. I had a bit of a panic attack and it was rough. Even though I know it was hormone related (thanks menopause lol), and I have loads of tools in my toolbox to navigate these moments, the after affects weren’t great. I got through it pretty well and had the support of my daughter and partner but the day after, I was tired, I was nauseous and had that foggy brain feeling – I call it the panic attack hangover!

When you have a panic attack or anxiety attack, your body is doing everything it can to help you survive. Rapid heart rate, your nervous system goes into overdrive, muscles get ready for fight of flight, so basically, you’re ready to run, fight or freeze – whatever it takes to keep you safe! It’s physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting!

So what can you do? These are the things I do to help me through and help me recover after:

  1. When you’re in the midst of a panic attack, ride it out. Remove yourself and go someplace quiet IF you can. It’s got to work it’s way through you so you need space and time to honour that if you can.
  2. Breathe. Slow and steady wins the race here. Breathe mindfully. Count your breath, breathing out slower than the in breath. In for 4 out for 4, in for 4 out for 6, in for 4 out for 8. Or box breathing, in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4 and repeat. Honestly it’s what works for YOU. There is no hard and fast rule here, whatever you can for slowing down your breath.
  3. Touch – connection IF this soothes you. It helps me when I do this but it’s not for everyone! Hand on heart. Hand on shoulder. Hands on your belly. Connect with yourself.
  4. Start to become aware of your surroundings. This helps your brain disengage from the “threat”. What can you see, smell, feel and hear. For example – find 5 blue things near you (the sky, blue car, blue dress, blue vase, blue book cover); name 5 things you can smell (toast, coffee, rain, flowers, cut grass); name 5 things you can hear (birds, cars, planes, dog barking, water running); name 5 things you can feel (your watch on your wrist, the tshirt you’re wearing, the chair underneath you, your feet on the ground, the ring on your finger).
  5. Depending on the severity, sometimes you’ll be able to grab something cold to put on your chest or behind your head, grab a drink of water, step outside and connect to the earth, breath in an oil you like. These are things you can do while your pulse is returning to normal.
  6. Move your body to release the nervous energy if you need to. Just like a a gazelle runs and shakes off its body after narrowly escaping certain death from the lions jaw, we too need to expel that “I survived energy”.
  7. Rest. Afterwards you will feel like you have just run a marathon and physically you pretty much have! Rest when you can.
  8. Recover. The day after you may feel awful. As I mentioned above, it can be like a hangover! Be kind to yourself, drink plenty of water, rest where you can, or do something nice for yourself, honour what the body needs where you can. It just kept you safe and now it needs to repair. This takes energy too!
  9. Once it’s over, check in with yourself. What triggered it? How are you feeling now? Do you need support? What do you need?
  10. And most importantly, remember you are human. You are not weak or weird because you had a panic or anxiety attack! Once you feel settled, finding the root cause and being self aware will help you recover, and gain insights into your why so you can support yourself.